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uring the 1941 season everything went right. Ted had learned his lessons and he
was coming into his full strength. The wind was with him. The breaks were with him. Hell, the gods were with him. “Everything I hit fell in. Every break that I could get I got.”
In the summer of 1941, twenty-two-year-old Ted Williams and twenty-six-year-old Joe DiMaggio put together seasons that will last for as long as there are plaques in Cooperstown and new generations to marvel at their deeds. Joe DiMaggio reeled off his fifty-six-game hitting streak, the best of all time, and Ted became the last man to hit .400. It was a season that links their names together forever, with each of them magnifying and making more luminous the deeds of the other. And yet they were not really tied that closely together during the season itself.

By its very nature, a consecutive-game streak has no latitude for failure. Any newspaper editor will tell you that there is no story more gripping – or better for circulation – than the Girl in the Hole. Will the rescuers get to her in time to save her life, or won’t they? With DiMaggio, it was a life or death story every day. Click to view the game’s longest hitting streaks:

Ted Williams’ quest for a .400 season, by contrast, did not turn into a cliff-hanger until the very last day of the season. And while there is nothing to be gained by glorifying Ted at the expense of DiMaggio, it is fair to say that with the passage of time it is Williams’ .406 that looms larger than DiMaggio’s fifty-six games. It was not always thus.
    The season with which Ted Williams will be forever identified did not start out too well for him. For the third straight year, he was a no-show on the opening day of spring training. When he finally phoned the long-suffering Eddie Collins a day later, he explained that he has been so busy hunting wolves in the wilds of Minnesota – that must have made Collins feel better – that he lost all track of the date. To show how contrite he was he promised Collins that he would jump into his car and drive right down.

In the second exhibition game, he caught his spikes as he was sliding into second base and chipped a bone in the ankle of his right foot. As a result, he came out of training camp limping and was restricted to little more than pinch-hitting duty over the first twelve games.
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